Now that we're halfway through 2020, the year of coronavirus, murder hornets, and the Godzilla Dust Cloud, you might think mentioning Darwin in a headline has something to do with yet another threat to human life. I'm happy to report that I'm only referencing whether your business will survive the coming challenges — not your actual life.
Darwin famously said that evolution favors the survival of the "fittest." But as I've written here before, "fittest" doesn't mean "strongest," "smartest," fastest," or even "best-looking." What he meant was "most adaptable to change." And if there's one thing 2020 has proven, it's that we all need to be exercising our change muscles.
Lots of industries will be feeling Covid hangovers long after the virus recedes from day-to-day relevance. Commercial real estate owners will feel the pinch from employees working virtually. Brooks Brother, which filed for bankruptcy this week, will feel the pinch from those virtual employees wearing sweats instead of suits. Butchers working in slaughterhouses that have become Covid incubation dishes will lose their jobs to robot butchers.
How will it all affect you? How are you going to adapt to all this change?
Most TMN members have moved towards more virtual officing. Many of you love it and don't plan on returning to your old-school central offices. This will be easier now that you don't have to worry so much what your clients think (since everyone else around them is moving in a virtual direction, too.)
But the real issue here is automation — how it can work against you, and how it can work for you.
We've talked before about robots coming for your jobs. Accounting and tax prep are functions that are ideally suited for robots. And while Rosie, the Jetsons' robot housekeeper, won't be retraining for face-to-face client meetings anytime soon, artificial intelligence and (especially) machine learning are going to continue taking the manual labor out of those jobs. For the last 40 years, technology has been making it easier to do your job. Now, technology is on the verge of being able to do much of that job for you. That's going to cut labor, of course, which sounds great. But, because accounting and tax prep are commodities in a competitive market, it's also going to compress fees and margins. In short, you aren't going to get to keep the costs savings of eliminating people — your clients are.
Where does that leave you? Our answer involves finding higher-value planning, consulting, and advisory services to offer higher-value clients. Then, use automation your competitors don't have — like the brand-spanking-new Automated Tax Operating System that we rolled out to members on Wednesday — to offer those services as efficiently and economically as possible.
How else will Covid force you to adapt to change?
Note to New "Automated TOS" Members: Keep an eye out on your email for updates and announcements beginning Monday as we begin onboarding! These will include a series of weekly "What's Next" calls starting on Wednesday, July 15, at 2PM ET (11AM PT). Yes, we know that's a tax filing deadline (so we'll record the call). But let's be honest, it's entirely congruent with our "liberate yourself from the tyranny of tax filing deadlines" philosophy to host a call on automation on a tax filing deadline!
Note to Advanced/Elite Members: The Fueled program returns to regular order for Q3 2020 this month, with a track on "decisionmaking." For July, we'll be discussing how you and your clients can overcome obstacles to making effective decisions. For August and September, we'll be delving into behavioral economics, which is the fascinating (and Nobel Prize-winning) science of using psychology to understand how people make real-world financial decisions. Keep an eye out early next week for your July homework!